The healing of the soul (psyche-therapy) was originally the responsibility of tribal chiefs, witch doctors, and priests. In the twentieth century, we are inundated with psychotherapists. If you desire assistance and relief from the concerns, confusions, or pain of your life, select the person who will be most effective in helping you. Skill, training, cost, availability, attitudes, and philosophy are important factors to consider. There are several philosophies of psychotherapy and psychopathology, and a helper who identifies him/herself with a particular one is making a statement about his/her approach to you as well as to what’s wrong with you. A brief overview of a few psychotherapeutic orientations follows.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have specialized in the diagnosis and treatment of emotional disorders (psychiatry). Many psychiatrists are Freudian psychoanalysts, which means that your maladaptive behavior is viewed primarily as the result of early childhood experience. Techniques of free association, transference and resistance, and dream analysis are used. Psychoanalysis is usually a slow expensive talk therapy.

A recently developed interpretative psychotherapy is Transactional Analysis. TA examines all behaviors (structural analysis) from the perspective of three ego states: parent, adult, child. An understanding of how these ego states are contaminated (positions, games, rackets, scripts), are explored and, hopefully, an understanding of how to operate in the most appropriate/effective ego state will develop.

Primal Therapy is based on the idea that at some (early) point, we all stopped feeling and responding to our needs because of pain or fear. This primal point is where our neuroses began. If we can reach and release (primal scream) that pain we will become healthy again. Similarly, Reichian therapy and bioenergetics believe that pain and anger become internalized instead of released and are trapped in the muscles and organs of our bodies (character armor). Through various techniques of understanding and physical release, we can break down our defenses and allow our energy to flow freely through us.

Gestalt Therapy is a non-interpretative process that focuses on what is happening in the present (because now is when the process of life [all illness and health] occurs). A gestalt is a complete experience, and Gestalt Therapy helps us to complete our unfinished experiences so that we may be responsible in the present. Gestalt believes that the act of awareness is healing, our organism will heal itself if we are aware of what we need. Feelings, thoughts and physical behavior are observed and reflected upon as they are expressed in the present.

The quality of therapeutic help that you receive depends greatly upon the individual helper and your commitment/receptivity toward helping yourself. During your initial time together, you are interviewing your therapist as well as being interviewed. If you do not feel comfortable or open with him or her, you have no obligation to return. Find a helper that can be helpful to you. Some psychotherapists are open and loving; some will view as a set of sick behaviors. Most psychotherapy is a unique blend of different orientations, the personality of the therapist, and the chemistry of your interchange.

Friends may be as helpful as any professional “objective” outsider. “Peer counselors” (trained non-professionals) offer help at different volunteer agencies. Groups, like Re-Evaluation Counseling, offer mutual co-counseling opportunities.

Studies show that two groups which viewed themselves equally as unhappy or “sick” — with one group receiving intensive professional help and the other left on its own — felt equally better after five years. So, remember you will inevitably get better no matter what you do.